UK vineyard tours are sure to be a top attraction, now that many UK residents have said they intend a UK holiday this year rather than going abroad.
The very thought of a vineyard tour in the UK would have been laughable maybe 20-30 years ago, but today visitors are spoiled for choice. UK wine, especially in southern England, has gone from strength to strength thanks to warmer summers and farmers realising that it's far more profitable to grow grapes than grain.
Dozens of UK vineyards now offer tours, and many have restaurants and very comfortable accommodation too.
It makes sense to book at least one night’s stay, if planning a vineyard tour, so that you don’t have to worry about driving after doing a wine-tasting. Most vineyards are naturally located in scenic, rural settings, and there are some in Devon and Cornwall that are also very close to the coast, so you could easily spend a week at a winery, explore the area, and wake up every morning to a beautiful vineyard view.
For anyone worrying about safety, vineyards have followed all the required procedures to make it safe to open again, following the Coronavirus lockdown.
Many have either reduced the number of guests per tour, or increased the number of tours, and some have done both, making it as easy as possible for visitors to obey social distancing. Masks will naturally be worn... except when tasting the wine, of course!
Here's our choice of some of the best vineyard tours spread around the UK, in strictly alphabetical order:
A few miles outside Bodmin, the pioneering Camel Valley vineyard planted its first vines way back in 1989 and has produced award-winning wines ever since. At the end of a single-track road and surrounded by farmland and woodland close to the River Camel, the delightful scenery is a part of the tour experience.
Tours are daily and must be booked in advance, with email confirmation to avoid the need for tickets. Two barns converted into luxury cottages with panoramic views over the vineyards make for a peaceful overnight stay.
Denbies opened in 1986 near Dorking and offers a full range of experiences, with a vineyard hotel, weddings, a restaurant with vineyard views, and a choice of indoors and outdoors tours. You can also combine a tour with dinner or an afternoon tea, and they even have their own train to take you round the vineyard.
Denbies makes a wide range of whites, reds, rosés and sparkling wines, and their Pinot Noir shows that you can make red wine in the UK, though they only produce one in the best years.
Based near Ashford, Gusbourne specialises in sparkling wines, though in 2018 they also produced a limited-edition Pinot Noir.
As well as a regular tour you can choose a self-guided tour, a full tour of the whole estate, a tour that ends with a light lunch and wine tasting, a tour that culminates in a full three-course lunch, or a romantic picnic for two where you’re given a basket full of local produce and a bottle of their Brut Reserve 2016.
The Hush Heath Estate has been making award-winning Balfour wines since 2002, specializing in sparkling wines. Their flagship Balfour Brut Rosé was the first English sparkling wine to be served in British Airways First Class and was the official English wine for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
You can book accommodation at the nearby Goudhurst Inn, also owned by the estate, and the several tour options include a chance to walk on the estate’s nature trails and combine wine and food pairings.
The Old Walls Vineyard is just a few miles from the South Devon coast, between Exeter and Torquay, and with six two-bedroom cottages to rent would make an ideal base for a short break in the area.
There’s also a bistro which naturally features their own wines, both on the wine list and in several of the dishes on the menu. Tours include a welcome tea or coffee, a tasting of several wines, and lunch with a glass of wine.
England's most northerly commercial vineyard is a tiny but charming winery based in a listed cowshed 14 miles from York. Ryedale Vineyard's intimate nature is what makes the tours so appealing, and they’ll even make you a meaty or a vegetarian picnic hamper if you let them know in advance.
There’s also comfy accommodation either in a converted barn or in the 500-year-old Grade II listed farmhouse, while the former stables are available for private parties. Tours end with a pairing of their wines with local cheeses.
Sharpham Wine and Cheese is in a picturesque spot at the end of a country lane, right by the River Dart and not far from Totnes in Devon.
You can either do a comprehensive Vine to Wine tour, a walk through the vineyards, a guided tasting or a self-guided tasting, where your choice of four wines will each be paired with a local cheese.
There’s no accommodation but The Cellar Door Alfresco Kitchen serves a full lunch menu, with picnic take-outs available too.
The Trevibban Mill Vineyard is a 10-minute drive from Padstow and nearby beaches and is surrounded by beautiful Cornish countryside. At the edge of the vineyard and a short walk from a lake is a stylish and open plan eco lodge, and there’s also an on-site bar serving light lunches.
As well as a full range of wines, the vineyard also produces two apple liqueurs, an apple dessert wine and several ciders, including a sparkling pink cider. You can simply turn up and do a tasting of seven wines, book a regular tour or book to join their longer Sunday morning walking tour, which includes eight wines and lunch.
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Life as an award-winning travel and drinks writer has led to Mike drinking vodka with breakfast in Siberia, cognac in Cognac, sherry in Jerez, port in Oporto, champagne in Champagne, rum in Jamaica, jenever in Amsterdam, gin in Iceland, beer at the Great American Beer Festival, bourbon in Kentucky, whisky in Scotland, and visiting vineyards and distilleries all over the world. Dividing his time between Cambridgeshire and Arizona, Mike's written for BBC Good Food, Waitrose Drinks and American drinks magazine Chilled, where he's an Editorial Staff Writer.